At SD West: Microsoft exec asks if for-profit software can survive open source

How will the for-profit software industry fair if the open-source model continues to proliferate? According to Microsoft Distinguished Engineer Jim Gray, it might not survive. Commenting during a panel discussion at the Software Development Conference and Expo West (SD West) in Santa Clara, Calif., last week, Gray asked: "How will there be a software industry if there's open source?"

His comment came in response to fellow panelist Daniela Florescu's answer to an audience question about the effect of open source on standards development. Florescu, a senior software engineer at BEA Systems, held that standards such as XML Schema are emerging from open-source developments.

Gray pointed to the key role being played in open-source standards by companies that sell software. As Gray saw it, such standards are actually the fruits of the labors of profit-seeking companies. He even gave Microsoft rival Sun Microsystems credit as a standards-driving organization.

Gray's comments came on the heels of recent revelations that Microsoft may have helped The SCO Group to attract financing for its anti-Linux campaign. A widely circulated e-mail between a SCO executive and an outside consultant appears to credit Microsoft with helping SCO to connect with private investment firm BayStar Capital, which provided the Utah company with $50 million in financing last October.

The e-mail was posted on by the site's publisher, open-source maven Eric S. Raymond. Raymond said he received the message from a source inside SCO. Raymond called the message a "smoking gun" that shows Microsoft's support of SCO's $3 billion lawsuit against IBM and others.

A spokesman for BayStar told the "New York Times" that Microsoft contributed no money to the transaction and is not an investor in BayStar.

SCO verified the e-mail in a statement, but claimed that it was "simply a misunderstanding of the facts by an outside consultant.

"[The consultant] was told at the time of his misunderstanding," the statement read in part. "Microsoft did not participate in or orchestrate the BayStar transaction."

Microsoft's Gray served on a panel discussing software trends, XML, Web services and grids at the conference, which ran from March 15 through 19 at the Santa Clara Convention Center. Among those on the annual event's keynotes roster were writer Robert X. Cringely; IBM Fellow Grady Booch; CTO Allan Vermeulen; and Ivar Jacobson, founder of Jaczone AB, Sweden, and one of the founders of the Unified Modeling Language and the Rational Unified Process.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at


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